Ezekiel 2:1-5; Mark 6:1-13
6th Sunday after Trinity
St Barbara’s 04.07.21
Rev Tulo Raistrick
In our Gospel reading this morning we read of Jesus sending out the twelve disciples to go to villages and to proclaim and live out his kingdom. It is a reading which acts as a real encouragement to us – we too can be part of God’s work. We too can respond to his call to serve.
The backdrop to the sending out of the twelve isn’t immediately that promising. Jesus has returned to Nazareth, his home town, but things there haven’t gone well. The disciples may have been expecting a bit of a hero’s welcome for Jesus – the local boy who’s done good – like the sports star returning to his old sports club, or the famous celebrity returning to their old school. Bring out the banners; bask in the reflected glory. No doubt a bit of good-natured banter, and a bit of familiarity: “Look at you become all famous… I remember when you were knee-height.” There may well have been some of that, but then in synagogue that Sabbath, as Jesus began to teach, the mood had turned. “Who does he think he is? What right does he have to say such things?” They took offence. In Luke’s account, they become angry enough to want to lynch him.
It seems they had taken umbrage that someone whose family they knew so well could possibly have something new to share with them about God. After all, Nazareth was a small village of probably only about 400 people, where everyone knew each other. Everyone knew that his mother was Mary, that he had four younger brothers – James, Joseph, Judas and Simon – and a number of sisters still around in the village. They had no doubt bought chairs or tables from his carpentry shop, or asked him to fix a bit of joinery in their homes. His peers had played games with him as a child. His elders had watched him grow up.
They cannot equate the authority with which he teaches with the boy who grew up in their village and became a handyman. That doesn’t seem right. If God is to reveal himself to them, it won’t be through the boy next door. And so Jesus is rejected by his family, his childhood friends, his community.
Sometimes we may feel our backgrounds are too ordinary too. We may feel that others may dismiss us because we haven’t got the level of education of others, or because of the type of work we do, or because we are retired, or because our family background, or our ethnicity, or our race, may not fit.
But the first thing Jesus does when he is rejected by his own home town for these reasons is to recruit and send out those who far more fail the criteria of acceptability. He sends out fishermen, people who were highly skilled in their line of work, but more than likely to be illiterate and unversed in synagogue teaching. He sends out a former tax collector, a profession so despised, that it is almost impossible to tho think of a worse ambassador for the cause. He sends out Simon the Zealot, a freedom-fighter or terrorist, depending on one’s 1st century political views.
The only criteria that these twelve seem to fulfil is that they have spent time with Jesus. They have been following him. They have got to know him. That is the only criteria for us too.
And they don’t need to have to take an awful lot with them to serve either. A staff to help them walk – and that’s it. Money, possessions, equipment, none of it is needed. Just a desire to go and serve. Jesus is looking for a heart of service.
And what do they go out and do? What is the task Jesus calls them to? Three things: firstly, stand up for right, oppose what is evil; secondly, work for healing and reconciliation; and thirdly, tell others about Jesus and his kingdom.
The last couple of weeks in church we have heard those baptism promises: “I reject the devil and all rebellion against God… I renounce the deceit and corruption of evil”. They are important words to be reminded of. Part of our calling, part of what it means to follow Christ, is to oppose evil and injustice, in whatever form it may take. Whether that is bullying in the workplace; discrimination in appointments; inadequate care provision for the vulnerable; cuts to international aid. We are to challenge such things, but to do so from a place of love and humility, that those challenged may be given the space to change.
I know of a student at school who called out one of his friends for racist behaviour. He had a quiet word with them, and when they persisted, he reported them to the teacher. It was a costly act, but one of real integrity. When I heard about it I was challenged to ask of myself: would I be willing to do that?
We may want to ask ourselves, is there wrong that God is calling me to challenge?
The disciples were also sent out to heal. That meant physical healing through prayer but it also meant bringing other forms of healing too – reconciliation to fractured relationships, love to the unloved, hope to those in despair.
I wonder, in what ways is God calling us to bring healing. Are there hurting situations where we can bring the love and healing of God? I am always really moved when I hear about how members of this church have got involved in Good Neighbours. I heard this week of someone who took their good neighbour friend to a garden centre recently. It was the first time they had been out of the house in a year. Imagine the healing, the restoration of hope, for that person. I know of someone else who, though mainly housebound themselves, regularly phones up others in the church to give encouragement and to find out how people are. And I think of someone else in the church who is regularly asked by colleagues to act as a mediator, a reconciler, when relationships break down at work. What work of healing is God calling you to this week?
And thirdly, the disciples were to preach, to speak about Jesus. At such an early stage in the ministry of Jesus it is difficult to imagine what else the disciples would have been able to say other than to talk about their own encounters with Jesus, what they had witnessed, what he meant to them. They didn’t have a well-worked out theology, they didn’t have a clear message to communicate. But they could talk about what Jesus meant to them, this man who had totally transformed their lives, who had opened their eyes to seeing the world in fresh ways, this man who both loved them and awed them at the same time, this man who gave them hope and peace and meaning. “Come and find out more, come and meet him,” they could say.
I wonder who God may be calling us to share with this week. When we chat to colleagues or neighbours about our weekend, will we mention this church service, or maybe the confirmation service last week? Will we tell them that we will pray for them if they share with us difficult news? We don’t need to say much, but just allow the opportunity for conversations to go that direction if the other person so wishes.
Christ calls each one of us, whatever our background, whatever our occupation, and he calls us today. Lets join in the work of his kingdom: challenging evil, doing good and speaking of his love. Let us be a church that is growing in love, for God, for each other, for our community and for the world.